I recently had a discussion with a close friend about the necessity of washing locally-sourced farm chicken eggs. It is true, America is one of the few countries in the world that wash and refrigerate eggs. I’ve heard many reports from my globe-trotting friends that it’s quite common in Europe to find eggs on the end caps in the grocery stores, instead of in a refrigerated case.
The question still remains, are eggs safe to leave unwashed and stored out on a counter top instead of in the refrigerator?
The Short Answer: Yes, it is safe if you know your egg source.
The Long Answer: Think of eggs in layers. The first layer is the yolk. The yolk travels down the hen’s reproductive tract where the next layer, the white, is applied over the yolk. The next layers are the 2 very thin membrane layers, then a shell coating is applied over the membranes. The final layer is a liquid “sealant” that is applied right before the egg is laid. In fact, if you were standing around in the hen house as a hen is about to lay her egg, you’ll see that the egg is actually wet with this sealant when it is first laid and then dries within about 30 seconds.
What does this have to do with keeping my eggs fresh? This liquid sealant layer (called the “bloom”) is what helps keep bacteria out of your egg and keeps the egg fresher for longer. In the US, we wash that bloom right off the egg in commercial factory-produced eggs. Washing the bloom off will allow the egg to age faster and also allows bacteria in through the porous shell.
In the United States, food safety laws require that egg factories and small egg producers wash their eggs that are sold to the public. So for your safety and to comply with the requirements, we do wash our eggs that we sell. Have you been to another country where you saw unrefrigerated eggs for sale? Tell us about it in the comments below.